My dear friend, Chuck Congram, has been taking his congregation through the Sermon on the Mount this month. He has been communicating with his "larger" flock by e-mail with a daily, thought-provoking message of challenge, blessing and encouragement.
Here's what Chuck wrote today (Sunday, January 23rd, 2005):
Early in my ministry life I remember the advice of an old preacher who said "When you preach, speak to the broken heart in every pew because there is a broken heart in every pew." And for some of you it may be difficult to rejoice these days, so I wanted with you particularly in mind, to take you to a place in God's word where I would encourage you to set down your broken and weary heart:
"But now, God's message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: " Don't be afraid, I've redeemed you. I've called your name. You're mine. When you're in over your head, I'll be there with you. When you're in rough waters, you will not go down.
"...they will not sweep over you."
When you're between a rock and a hard place, it won't be a dead end-Because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: ... That's how much you mean to me! That's how much I love you! I'd sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. So don't be afraid: I'm with you." Isaiah 43:1-5a (The Message)
Do me a favor. Walk, once again, very slowly through those words. Here's what I want you to be attentive to: What is the one thing that speaks most clearly to you from those words? Think about it carefully and then write that down because I don't want you to lose that insight.
I'm not exactly sure that I did the math right, but it seems to me the words "you", "your" or "you're" appeared 18 times in that short passage. Even more significant was the way Isaiah spoke about the place where we find ourselves from time to time -in over our head, in rough waters or between a rock and a hard place. I know you're going to say that it is easy for me to find strength and joy in verses like that considering the good place I find myself in today. But the reason I find myself drawn there centers on my desire to let that truth wash over me now so that when my circumstances change I can come back here and lay myself and my situation into the hands of the One who made me in the first place, who got me started, who redeemed me, and who called me by name, who promises to be right there with me, who tells me I will not go down, who protects me from dead ends, who paid a huge price for me, who tells me how much I mean to Him and how much He loves me and who ultimately reassures me of how far He will go to make sure I am His.
Thanks, Chuck, for those encouraging words! As we continue our journey "home" today may we be buoyed and steadied by Isaiah's words which still speak so powerfully thousands of years after he penned them.
Take His hand and let Him lead the way!